There are plenty of interesting places in Taiwan that you can see without ever leaving the island, and one of them is Taroko Gorge.
If you are a nature lover, it’s one place in Taiwan that you won’t want to miss.
Where is Taroko Gorge?
While most of the major cities in Taiwan are on the west coast, the east coast is much less developed. A large portion of the northeast coast is considered the national scenic area. A little south of that is the city of Hualien.
Hualien has a lot of natural beauty in its own right but I am including it in this topic because it’s a common starting point for visitors headed to the Taroko Gorge National Park.
The usual thing to do is to find a nice place to stay for a night or two in Hualien, which has a couple of nice large hotels, and lots of smaller independently run hotels, and make day trips out to the gorge for hiking and sightseeing. (Need a place to stay? Click here!)
If you’re like most travelers and you don’t have a car in Taiwan, there are plenty of buses making daily trips from the city to scenic areas. You can even sometimes find taxi drivers near Taipei Main Station offering rides for reasonable prices, though they will be considerably more expensive than a bus.
What’s the Gorge Like?
A lot of the drivers that take you from Taipei or from your hotel in or near Hualien take on the role of tour guide, and they love making brief stops on the way from the city to the national park area. I had one driver try to get me to drink some type of wine made from yellow-jackets from a street-side stand (apparently it’s good for men, if you follow my drift) and another had me lie down in the middle of the road to look up at the shape the surrounding mountains make (it resembled the perimeter of Taiwan). As it turns out, that was a very famous location that I knew nothing about from the English language guidebooks and travel blogs.
Once you are at the gorge, there is a lot to take in. It’s huge. There are hiking trails, biking trails, hot springs, waterfalls and wildlife. The river water is turquoise and the mountains have colorful bands of marble running through them.
Aside from the natural beauty, some of the manmade structures are amazing as well. There are bridges high above the running water, and tunnels that, as I have been told, were carved by hand and explosives, before heavy machinery was used for such jobs.
One thing that I feel needs to be mentioned is that the roads are narrow, and the hiking trails have some dangerous spots, so be very careful. It’s best to travel through the gorge in a group, and even better to have someone experienced with the area showing you around.
There are plenty of paid tours which are very fairly priced, so if you don’t have a friend who lives in the area, or who is taking you, then take advantage of all of the help available, especially if it’s your first visit.
There are also nearby ecological protection areas, but they require permits, whereas the gorge itself does not. You can find information about the other areas, and the forms for the required permits here.
The website also has a pretty thorough FAQ about Taroko. If you plan on making the trip, it’s worth the read. Whether you are living in Taiwan, or just traveling here, Taroko Gorge is a highly recommended excursion. I haven’t been there in a few years, but after writing this and looking at my old photos, I may just have to make another trip in the near future. Maybe I’ll see you there.